Pharma-guru preaches the healthy way to get an edge

By Judith Stiles

It seems that personal pledges for fitness are renewed at the beginning of every season, and September is here. Recreational runners flank lower Manhattan as they jog in droves along the paths of the F.D.R. Drive and the West Side Highway. Some are running to become more fit, while many are jockeying in the lanes and dodging cyclists to improve their time for upcoming competitions. And like many sports nuts, most of them wonder just what supplements, vitamins or nutritional shakes they can safely use to enhance their performance.

Pharmacist and health guru Scott Berliner has a plethora of thoughtful advice, and shelves of nifty products to recommend that can be found at his practice at the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center ,at 32 W. 22nd St., as well as at his store and laboratory in Harriman, N.Y.

Berliner, a registered pharmacist, has lectured widely for decades about nutrition, anti-aging, natural hormone-replacement therapy and innovative therapies for AIDS, hepatitis and cancer, as well as holistic ways for athletes to improve their performance.

The catchy phrase “performance-enhancing” has gotten a bad rap since the Major League Baseball steroid scandal broke. However, Berliner points out that speed, strength and agility can definitely be improved naturally, and there is nothing nefarious about using alternative substances, some of which he concocts in his very own, certified, sterile laboratory.

“The demand is great for anything that will enhance performance, because we now live in a fiercely competitive sports environment,” Berliner says. “In every high school in the Harriman area and high schools across the country, kids can easily buy injectable steroids and human growth hormones online and through classmates,” he notes with dismay.

With all his patients and, especially, with teenage athletes, Berliner does a thorough examination of diet, sleep patterns and exercise routines. He measures the basal metabolic rate and calculates the protein requirements of a young patient. Usually, the magic bullet is fairly straightforward because a young athlete is often not only deficient in electrolyte intake, but he or she is loading up on too many pregame carbs and eating too little protein, especially at breakfast.

After individual body composition is evaluated, the athlete is given advice about appropriate intake of food and fluids for a specific sport, timing of intake and, if needed, supplements or nutritional, ergogenic aids. The recommended dietary regimen focuses on providing fuel for muscles, maintaining blood glucose levels and muscle recovery. Berliner emphasizes proper hydration for any sport and offers alternatives to Gatorade, which, in his opinion, is loaded with unnecessary sugar.

To debunk certain myths, he explains that creatine, taken in the form of creatine supplements, is used in muscle cells to store energy to improve sprinting and explosive exercise. Abuse of creatine has given many safe supplements a bad reputation. He notes that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate the supplement industry, so safety and purity of products bought over the counter are not always guaranteed; and, again, all supplements should be taken with the supervision of a licensed practitioner.

The bottom line is that anyone embarking on a serious fitness program can avoid injury and complications with a comprehensive metabolic evaluation. And with appropriate use of supplements, performance can safely be enhanced in a healthy way.